First, let me comment on the book format itself. It's my first Omnibus, and it's an impressive book. 792 pages. My young daughter couldn't get over how big and heavy the book was. As I've said, the bigger pages and better print actually made some of the weaknesses of the art stand out for me, but overall it's a beautiful package. The binding seems solid and stood up my first reading of the book. Let's see how it'll handle from now on. However, I've always prefered trades, and have to say I continue to do so. I usually read my books on bed, before I doze off, or in that single place a married man with children can expect a modicium of privacy (those that are know where it is), and a book this big is kind of unwieldly in these places. Honestly, I'd have prefered this as two 30 something bucks TPBs than as this $100 HC (of course, I paid much less than this).
Now, as for the story itself. Those who don't want a 15 years old story which has mostly been retconned might want to skip the following. So - SPOILERS ALERT -
If I was to use one word to describe the Crossing it would be: UNEVEN. The book is hardly bad, nor is it one of the masterpieces of the genre, but the amount of people involved in it and the concepts that each writer seemed to have seen fit to bring in to it really hinders it. Don't get me wrong, I found it an amazingly easy read (ten days, reading about two or three individual storys, and, given my current amount of free time, that was a feat). It is very well coordinated something always happens in each book to move along the story, and things do flow seemlessly from book to book (29 issues divided among four ongoings and a few one-shot specials). Many of the current event writers and editores in which book A never is in synch with book B could take a lesson from that. The story never failed to keep me entretained. I've ready pleanty of collections of 90's material that I enjoyed at the time and that I found kind of unreadable now (The Onslaught Saga, Maximum Carnage, Operation Zero Tolarance, etc...). Many of the chapters in these sagas are, sometimes a chore to get through, and a few end up being tottaly skipped, as to get to the meat of the story. That did not happen with the Crossing. I read every single issue in full, totally drawn into the story. IMHO, the two weakest issues are Avengers #394 (in which there was enough jobbing all around to shame AvsX. Neut takes down Hercules, and Vision with one blow, wipes the floor easily with the rest of the Avengers, but is taken down by a couple of stingers of the Wasp?) and the Timeslip one-shot, in which, coincidently or not, two of the worst moves of the story take place. DnA and Harras stand out in the writing front, and even Kavanaugh, cliched though his writing may be in some points, does an adequate job at scripting. Ben Raab's contributions are a little bit more heavy handed.
On the art front, you have about 20 pencilers for around 29 issues. That is hard to digest. Deodato and a young Jim Cheung stand out, but Deodato's work on this is the perfect exemple of the uneveness of the storyline. He goes from beautiful panels and dymamic page layout to really mediocre setting and figure work. You could clearly see that he was overworked and phoning in, giving a lot of work to his assistants (especially in the Crossing one-shot). Jimmy Cheung's early work is very different than his current. I detected a certain Mark Silvestri influence to it, but it's still quite striking and pleasent. Others that make great contributions are the always dependable Jim Califore, Yancey labat and Heitor Oliveira, whose work, though still a bit crude, showed a lot of potential, but I don't recall seeing much of it after that. IMHO, the worst issue art wise was the Timeslip one. Roger Cruz and Luke Ross turned out to be great artists, but during that Joe Madureira on Speed copycat period that they had in the 90's it was awful. Fabio Laguna IMO, never was much good.
Now, storywise. The book had a great premise, Iron Man becomes corrupted by Kang and turns on the Avengers and Force Works, becoming the worst enemy they could imagine. IMHO, it was a great idea, and really brimming over with potential. The execution, it fell a little short. First of all, Marvel showed very little cajones with the death's that Tony was responsible for. Rita DeMarra, who was an honorary Avenger for 5 minutes (and they expected us to buy the hurt of the Avengers with the death of one of them whom they hardly knew) Cyrstal's nanny, Force Works PR, and Gilgamesh, which was the only one with a more established connection with the team, and that's not saying much. Plus, his death was kind of lame and hard to swallow. I'm not saying they should have killed a founder, or any such, but had they killed someone with a little bit more history with the team, such as, say the living Lightning or Starfox, it would have had much more of an impact. Still the story did have a solid set up, one of the strongest things about the book. Second, the pay-off. As great a villain as Iron Man was for the team (betrayed by the one they probably most trusted. Cap was always the spirit behind the Avengers, but Iron Man was the moving force. He made the Avengers and Force Works happen), they wanted to continue publishing the Iron Man mag, and I don't think the Villainous Iron Man was going to be a big seller (not that the Invencible Iron Teen was). It was quite obvious that teen Tony was going to be the sollution they planted ever since the beggining (and I don't know who came up with that "brilliant" idea. probably some brain dead marketing executive, "Research shows that kids want to read about kids. Teen Tony will be a hit with the younger crowd, never mids that it doesn't make sense at all, or that it goes totally against what the character really is all about." ), but they missed out on a total logical and much less contoversial solution that was spelled out in the book. Evil Cybermancer came from a world where Stark was already evil and in league with Kang. With very little tweaking, our Tony could have been replaced by that Tony, and you'd still have a "Crossing" when our heroes went to the alternate Earth to rescue the good Tony. It would still have a lot of drama in it, for everybody would see signs of that evil Tony in our Tony, and would wonder if he'd ever go down that road, plus, you wouldn't have to retcon almost all of IM's story to say that Kang had his hooks on him ever since the early days of the Avengers.
So, a great premise, a good set-up and build, but a very weak resollution.
Other things that I didn't like were the designs of the Wasp and War Machine's warwear (don't know if I can blame that last one on the Crossing, though). People seemed to have forgotten that super-heroes (especially in the 90's) are part of teenage fantasies. Ergo, they should be good looking. Not butt-ugly. I found the warwear a great idea, and Abbnet was really letting the imagination fly with it's use, but the monster design and the gnashing teeth fetish of the 90's really killed a potentially great direction for Rhodey.
The Crossing left many questions and threads on the air that were never answered or followed through. Like, Rodey's supposed son, who gave him the warwear, and why? What the hell did Marianne Rodgers and Masque bring to the story (Busiek tried to answer the last one, but I'm sure it wasn't the original plan)? Whatever happend to Slade Truman/ Gustave Brandt/ Moonraker? What about Force Works and the caos vault? What was the enemy that Kang was terrified of?
Loved the House of Kang as enemies, though, specially bad Mantis.
Something else that had potential to go on, but didn't was Force Works. I mean, the Crossing really dismantled the operation, but the last issues showed that a lot was still salvageble. The point was to bring back the mainstay Avengers back to the fold. But, the book was a solid one (except for the inability of landing a good and permanant art team), and you still had US Agent (Patriotic hero), Spider Woman (Insect heroine), Century (Tall strong guy with long hair and cool weapon) and War Machine (Man clad in weapon systems suit). Hell, add She-Hulk (which pretty much wasn't being used at the time) and Ant Man (Scott Lang, who was wraping up his stint with the FF) and you had a modern day analogue of the original Avengers, and one that, in all probability, wouldn't have been wiped out by Onslaught, making them Earth premier hero team. I can't believe that nobody ever saw the possibilities in that.
So, all in all, the Crossing is a sound book full of very exciting concepts and possibilities, but that falls short in living up to them. It has adequate art, a solid writing, and an entertaining premise. The pay-off leaves a bad tase in your mouth, but, even so, this being CBR, I'd give it, at least 3,5 stars.
Was it worth it. I'd have to say yes (if you can get it at a good discount).